The achievements of women in racing are being celebrated by Great British Racing for International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8, ahead of The Festival, presented by Magners, at Cheltenham next week.
The 2018 four-day spectacular saw a new record set when four women rode winners at the Festival – Lizzie Kelly on Coo Star Sivola (Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase), Bridget Andrews on Mohaayed (Grade 3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle), Harriet Tucker on Pacha Du Polder (St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase) and Katie Walsh on Relegate (Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper).
Great British Racing has created an inspirational video featuring Andrews, Kelly and Tucker with their own personal commentary of what it takes to be a top athlete, as well as footage of their spectacular rides last year.
Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the UK and has the biggest proportion of female fans of any major British sport, with women accounting for approximately 40% of racegoers. It is one of the few professional sports where men and women compete directly against each other on equal terms.
Kelly, the first woman to win a Grade 1 race over jumps, has noted the positive shift in the sport regarding the inclusion of women.
She said: “Women in racing are becoming more common now and it’s a huge thing for racing to be able to use the talents that we have. Plenty of women work within yards throughout the country and for them to have the opportunities that we’re seeing now is really important.
“There was a time when Lucy Alexander was the only professional female jockey in the country and the fact that she won the champion conditional title goes to show that she can do it and we can all do it.
“Since then plenty more women have had success and I think we’re in a really good groove at the moment in terms of how women are getting on. We’re in a golden era for women in racing and long may it continue. Hopefully we get even more women into the sport.”
Tucker became a star last year when she overcame the pain of a dislocated shoulder sustained during the Foxhunter Chase to drive Pacha Du Polder to victory.
She added: “If someone said to me women can’t be jockeys, I’d laugh in their face because women can do it and we’re proving we can do it and we’re equal. Doors are opening and more women are coming into the sport.
“I like to be as tough as I can. Winning is more important than my arm. I had to lift the trophy with my arm shaking but I didn’t care. No pain no gain! I love the adrenaline, the thrill, the buzz.”
Following Andrew’s success aboard Mohaayed in the County Hurdle last year, there were jubilant scenes after the race when her boyfriend, and now fiancé, Harry Skelton, the brother of Dan Skelton who trained her mount, embraced her after the winning post.
“After Cheltenham I believed in myself so much more,” she said. “I had two massive goals last year, one was to ride a Festival winner and one was to ride out my claim…and I’ve done both. That makes me think that actually I can do it.
Doors are opening and more women are coming into the sport
“Dan [Skelton] has given me the opportunities. He believes I can do it and everyone in the yard believes I can do it, so I’m definitely more confident now.”
Bryony Frost, successful at The Festival in 2017 on Pacha Du Polder, looks set to become only the third female jockey to ride in the Gold Cup, when she partners the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon. Rachael Blackmore is seeking to become the first female Irish champion jockey and will bid to claim her maiden Festival win next week.
For more information or to find out more about women in racing and International Women’s Day, visit www.greatbritishracing.com/international-womens-day
Video courtesy of Great British Racing, with race footage courtesy of ITV and RTV